Thomas Pieters didn’t set a lofty goal entering his first Masters Tournament weekend considering his standing at the time.
Instead of visualizing a potential final pairing Sunday, the 25-year-old Belgian kept it simple after carding 4-under-par 68 in the second round Friday.
“If I just get in contention on Sunday afternoon, that’s all I want,” Pieters said.
The young but calm Pieters took a setback by shooting 75 in the third round Saturday, but it’s enough to keep him on the first page of the leaderboard at 1-under entering the final round.
After firing three birdies and an eagle Friday, Pieters experienced a rockier Saturday despite calmer conditions. He logged three birdies to four bogeys and a double bogey to sit in a tie for ninth.
Pieters hit the same number of fairways and only one fewer green in regulation from Friday to Saturday. The difference came on the greens, where he had five more putts and three-putted twice in the third round.
The putting struggles showed the most on No. 11 when he chipped to five feet, then three-putted from that distance for double bogey. It came between a missed 10-foot par putt on No. 5 and a missed 10-footer for birdie on No. 15.
Pieters limped in by finding the trees off the tee on 18 and carding bogey.
There were glimpses Saturday of the talent that carried Pieters to a tie for first entering the third round, but there weren’t enough to prevent the fall entering Sunday.
He responded to the opening bogey with a birdie on No. 2, and he took advantage of a reachable 13 by getting on in two and carding birdie. Perhaps his highlight of the day came on 17 when he knocked a 138-yard approach to six feet and sank the birdie putt.
It’s not an ideal finishing point Saturday after slipping eight spots on a day when red figures were more common, but the goal of Sunday contention remains a possibility in Pieters’ first Masters.
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.